An Apple a Day Drives the Witch Right into Your Path…Wait

I kind of got away with that title there, but to be fair, whenever I see apples involved in literature, I immediately think of the tale of Snow White. It’s not even my favorite tale by a mile, but I will admit that some of the retellings I’ve read do bring about the need to bake something with apples inside. Winter, I’m talking about you specifically.

And yes, okay, so most apple covers don’t necessarily mean Snow White. I mean, unless you can give me a really good argument that says Twilight is a metaphor for the story of a crazed queen and her attempts to kill her more beautiful stepdaughter (but wait, wasn’t Kristen Stewart a star on both so maybe there’s the connection…argh, I’m digressing), then yeah, apple covers don’t mean Snow White.

Buuut there’s got to be an appeal to apples, right? Because poor, silly Snow likes apples. Winter happens to love ’em especially when sprinkled and baked in with cinnamon. And honestly, I love baking with apples when I can.

So there you have it. Apples. Are. Awesome.

Now that I’ve completely rambled on about dem apples, onto what I had meant to do, which was post something I had made weeks ago! (Hah, yes to backlog of baking-related posts!)

Apple Bread

Say hello to the most scrumptious bready thing ever! I’ve been saving a ton of apple-related recipes on my Pinterest to get back to later on, and eventually made my way to one I wanted to attempt. So while I procrastinated writing, well, anything (I’m sorry Meg and Tarma and and…yeah…), I baked something I could totally use as an excuse for being unproductive. Only I suppose I was productive, because I made bread.

The recipe was pretty straightforward, and the glaze was standard milk, not cream, because I didn’t really have any cream handy. (And I wouldn’t go so far as to make glaze with cream anyway, not too fond of it being too thickly sweet). I also used three apples instead of two.

And with my sister’s trusty new apple corer, peeling coring, and slicing those apples took mere seconds!

Like the recipe suggested, I split the batter up into two. I lined my bread pan with parchment paper poured half the batter in, half the apple mixture in, and sprinkled that with a cinnamon-sugar mixture. Then rinse, repeat. I waited 45 minutes before checking up on the bread, and let it brown a bit more before pulling it out of the oven.

Verdict: The bready middle was super moist and soft and so yum. It was a good call to split the batter so there’s plenty of apple to go around. There was a suggestion to add walnuts in, but with a brother who’s allergic to practically every nut in existence, I can safely say this recipe can do without.

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“That’s Not Green Tea…It’s MINT!”

When it comes to baking my brother’s birthday cake, it’s often a collaboration between myself and my artistic sister. I tend to focus on the baking, since I bake from scratch, and my sister does the piping or surface decorations. It works well, because we play to our strengths, and for the most part, we’ve done pretty well, considering my brother tends to get the BEST. CAKES. EVER.

I wonder why.

Anyway, this year, we were kind of at a loss for ideas, up until I stared at my sister and went: “Well, Gale likes Oreos so much, we can make him a giant Oreo cake. With matcha filling.”

Hence the giant Oreo cake was born. Except I didn’t even use any Oreos. So can it really be called an Oreo cake?

Probably not. We’ll call it a Dark Chocolate Mint–er, Matcha–Surprise.

The funny bit is that my brother was actually around long enough to see the layers at work. I employed two frostings and two types of cake batter to make this cake, and for some reason he kept looking at the green cake and couldn’t put a name to it. So whenever he stared long and hard at the green cake, my sister and I tended to say, “This isn’t your cake. It’s mint.”

But it’s not really mint, you guys. Of course it’s not. I mean, honestly, how can anyone really mistake the distinct green of matcha powder?

(That said, I kind of colored both the batter and frosting with forest green coloring to bring out the vibrancy of the green.)

You’ll find the recipes of things I found below:

Dark Chocolate Cake – This was super moist and awesome. My main fear about making a large, triple-layered cake was that the cakes would dry out. Thankfully, the chocolate cake recipe was super moist since it employed vegetable oil instead of butter.

Green Tea Pound Cake – This was the heavier and smaller layer that got sandwiched between the two dark chocolate cake layers. This was straightforward, and I still have a lot of matcha powder for baking. But of course I do. I always keep a stock of matcha handy!

Chocolate Frosting – Straightforward. You really can’t eff up chocolate frosting unless you try really hard to do so. Or replace powdered sugar with salt (HOW?!).

Matcha Cream Cheese Frosting – This was definitely my favorite flavor in the cake, hands down. Alone, the frosting is super-sweet and super-cream cheesy. But think about the dark bitterness of the chocolate cake and the slight matcha-tasting pound cake! If there’s something that can tie all of the pieces together, it was definitely this frosting. And holy hell, that green tea flavor really came out after putting this frosting on.

My sister did the piping, so I couldn’t show you the process even if I wanted to. At that point, I’d done my job and gone to bed, because of course school night. Sigh.

Verdict: Sooooo good. Even my brother quite enjoyed it. Maybe next year, we’ll make a peanut butter cup cake…except without peanut butter, because my brother’s allergic. I  mean…it’s definitely a great way to troll him!

Food and Fandom: Beauty’s Spiced Treacle Cake

I could go on and on about why I chose to do another Beauty-related goodie, but this one is actually inspired by something that McKinley wrote in the pages. I couldn’t really find the passage again, but I’m telling you, the book mentioned spiced treacle cake, and I totally hopped up on the idea!

Beauty by Robin McKinley is a straightforward retelling of an iconic fairy tale. One of the things that I remembered from the book was a scene where Beauty wakes up in the morning thinking of hot chocolate and toast. And later on, she ruminates on the types of foods she’d been having while in Beast’s castle, and Beauty eventually decides that one of her favorites is a spiced treacle cake. Often she would ask for it, and there was an adorable scene where she even feeds the Beast a piece because she wanted him to try it!

So I went on a search for a spiced treacle cake.

Ginger Spiced Treacle Traybake

I actually gleaned this recipe from Fold in the Flour, though the original recipe is very much thanks to Mary Berry. I mention this because I had become addicted to The Great British Bake Off and after seeing that this was a recipe she had, I wanted to try it!

I will say that Mary Berry knows her shit, and honestly, even with the changes I made, it was still delicious and spiced and utterly gingery!

I’ve converted the ingredients into American measurements the best way I can. Also, these are the ingredients of changes I made as well, so if you want to follow the recipe to its totality, there’s plenty of places where this recipe can be found (including the Fold in the Flour link).

Ingredients

Cake

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) softened unsalted butter
  • 1 cup muscovado sugar (I used dark brown)
  • 2/3 cup molasses (I substituted with maple syrup, but you can use honey or some other syrup that has a thicker consistency)
  • 2 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 Tbsp milk
  • 3 bulbs stem ginger (I used 1 Tbsp ginger powder because I couldn’t find stem ginger in the groceries)

Glaze

  • 2/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 3 tsp ginger powder (optional)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • water (as needed)
  • chopped candy ginger (as needed)

Making the Cake

Mix the sugar and butter until smooth and creamy, add eggs one by one. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until smooth.

Bake cake in 9 x 13 inch tray for 35 minutes at 350 F. Set aside to cool and make the glaze.

Prepare glaze. Mix the dry ingredients and add water as needed, up until the consistency is what you want to pour onto the cake.

Sprinkle chopped ginger candy on top for decoration.

Verdict: Not everyone is a big fan of ginger or spiced cake, so this was not exactly the household favorite. The changes I made also made the cake not so treacly, but eh, I’m not a big fan of molasses, so that definitely cut down on the stickiness and the density. of the cake itself.

However, as a ginger-lover, I didn’t mind this so much, and it was like eating a super delicious sponge with candied ginger!

Of Peaches and Upside Down Cakes

I seem to be talking about food a lot.

But to be fair, I’m on vacation and when I’m on vacation, I tend to cook and bake a lot more than when I work. It’s definitely a combination of having the time and not spending money on transport (ergo, spending that saved-up money on ingredients!).

This week, my household got bombarded with peaches. After relishing in it with some Fourth of July jello, we still wound up with too many peaches and not enough motivation to want to eat them all the time. I love my fair share of fruits, but even I can’t bring myself to stuff my face with peaches.

Up until I decided I’d bake it into a cake.

So this is what I did.

Peach Upside Down Cake

Confession, I’ve never done an upside down cake before. Well, most of the time I don’t do repeats of what I bake unless it’s one of the more popular bakes (like salted caramel or Irish car-bomb cupcakes…or toffee). But this was the first time that I’ve worked with fruit in my baking period, so it was interesting.

I got the recipe from Flavorite and didn’t really deviate from the recipe except for the sugar. One thing I will note is that I didn’t have brown sugar on hand, so I ended up using granulated sugar instead. The only thing I would have changed was the amount of batter and the lack of crispness at the top. There was too little batter to the amount of peaches I used, and the top was sweet, but had a weird peachy-gooey texture I wasn’t a fan of.

But at that point I’m just being nitpicky, because the cake pretty much disappeared within the day. So I guess it was more than just “really good”?

(At some point I’ll go back to doing book reviews, I swear!)

Food and Fandom: Beauty’s Rose Apple Tarts

Oh baking. How I’ve missed thee! The idea actually came to mind because in under two weeks, my friend Meg and I will be releasing our first ever episode of Fableulous Retellings Podcast. Our first theme, surprise surprise, is the tale of Beauty and the Beast!

I had a few options regarding this story, and likely I will do a couple more between podcast episodes. To start it off, though, I was a bit inspired by the whole rose concept. In the original story–and most of the retellings afterward–Beauty often asks for a rose for her father to bring back from his trip. For the most part, he does, and for some reason, the Beast is none too happy with this poor old man pilfering from his rosebushes. I guess beasts don’t suffer thieves, either!

In any case, the rose is important, as is the garden, and even Disney got up on that in their version of BatB.

SO. Onto my baked good.

I thought about trying a rose-flavored macaron but I would have been at a loss, because I haven’t actually learned to make macarons! (All in good time…). So I browsed and I realized, oooh, an apple tart sounds yum!

Rose Apple Tarts

The original recipe I got from Preppy Kitchen, though I will admit that other than the apple seasoning, I didn’t really follow the rest of the ingredients. I couldn’t remember where I got the pastry shell recipe, however, but I do recall using powdered/confectionery sugar instead of regular sugar, just for a sweeter taste. And with tarts, you want something on the sweet side to balance out the sour that’ll be coming from the baked fruit.

The other thing I would say about making and shaping this tart shell is that it would be a good idea to have kidney beans or beads to keep the tart’s shell in place. I had neither, so it was much harder to stuff the apples in and shape them as roses afterward. The other suggestion is not to blind bake the shell and put the apples in immediately. Blind baking wasn’t really necessary for me, especially since I wasn’t making a huge tart shell, but little itty bitty ones.

I used my mini cupcake pan for such an occasion.

I also don’t have a tart pan, so this was definitely me improvising by using one of my cookie cutters to cut out pieces of dough and placing it in my cupcake pan. They shaped up rather well!

Probably the hardest part, however, was slicing the apples in very, very thin layers. In retrospect, I should have used the potato peeler, because slicing things very thinly with a knife took way too long. And most of the slices were still not thin enough! Maybe I just need a bit more practice.

Not that anyone’s complaining. Most of these tarts disappeared the moment they came out of the oven.